Montgomery Watt “The Formative Period of Islamic Thought İlahiyat

Montgomery Watt “The Formative Period of Islamic Thought

T.C Marmara Üniversitesi Ilahiyat Fakültesi
İslam Hukuku Yüksek Lisans

William Montgomery Watt “The Formative Period of Islamic Thought”
(A short summary)

irem kurt, IREM KURT, İREM KURT, irem kurt, islam hukuku, ilahiyat


This study presents a short conclusion of Watt’s detailed work about the formative period of Islamic thought. Watt`s work is of an outstanding importance to understand the development and internal structure of the political and heretical history of Islamic thought. In order to precise his work he has divided it in main chapters, which mainly represent scholastic movements or if required a political period in Islamic history. As it is of an interest for us to take a general picture of the development without losing too much details, we have preferred to use the same method as Watt, which means that we will use the same topics to conclude each of them under the corresponding.



The Beginnings

1. Part:  The Kharijites

Watt points the beginning of the development of Islamic thought at the murderer of ‘Uthman in 35/657, which is also accepted by nearly all historians. He discusses the reasons of his murderer and relevates the accusements braught towards him and his state policy. In his point of view the cause of his murderer was not his wrong policy which was mainly predicated by heresiographies. It occurs rather to be the fast development of the Islamic beaurocracy which lead to a common frustration between the former Bedouins, who now felt kind of a pressure under its strictness. After the cleavages occurring between the Muslim fractions in the issue of „tahkeem“ there can be found some prototypes of Islamic doctrines spread around the Muslim world.

After giving a short introduction by summarizing the occurences of Cemel, Siffin and Harura, the writer portrays the political instable situation at the years 35 until 66 H. the year of „tahkim“. The first heretical group, the Kharijites come on the scene, when fractions of Ali“s army leave him (huruj) accusing him of infringement of the Qur’anic orders and flee to Harura and Nehrevan. As later interpreted by their leaders this was the first step „to break out through the infidels (kafirs) and to immigrate to Allah and his prophet“. Although there may be other definitions of the name Kharijites, the two definitions given above describe how this heretical group was seeing itself at the beginning of it’s emerge. After the year of „tahkeem“ they are called rebels especially in the terminology of the Umayyad`s. As a doctrinal belief the Kharijiyya is represented as Haruriyya and Wahbiyya. As the first scholars there are to be mentioned Yeman b. Ribab (176/792) and Yahya b. Ebi Kamil (around 218). The dispersed movement of the Kharijites bases on some arguments which can be summarized in 2 points: 1) Ali got infidel because he accepted the ``tahkeem`` 2)  the grave sinner is an unbeliever and to be excluded from the community
The background of these Kharijite ideas can be found in the social and traditional roots of the members, which were mostly former Bedouins. The former Bedouins way of life was divided in two perspectives: The tribe, and the others. Any stranger was assumed to be dangerous and a potential enemy. This behaviour pattern can be observed in Kharijite fellate: the Kharijites are the real Muslims the ahl-al Jannah whereas the `others` are ahl-al jahiim. At least the extreme group of Ibn al Ezraq, which was rebelling until the year 79/698 in some regions of Iraq, has very clear and distinct borders between the believers and unbelievers, whereas the group of Najda ibn Amir al-Hanafi, which was existing between the years 67-73 and had a wide range of members, has a much more moderate attitude. 
The doctrinal position of Ibn al-Azraq, whose group can be seen as the first doctrinal group of the Kharijites, was very much influenced by the idea of group solidarity. The Najdites, however, had to cope up with a heterogenic society, where it was impossible to exclude grave sinners from the group of the believers. As a result Najda was aware of the need of ijtihad and of a more modest way of intepretating the sin of a human: sins concerning the fundamental principles made a person a unbeliever,in contrast sins according the non-fundamental orders of a religion could base on the ignorance of a sinner, and would make him to a hypocrite -  a munafiq, but would not cause  his exludement from the group. Another specific beduine attitude can be observed in Najdas group and probably all Kharijite groups in common: the idea of egalism. This point will be taken up again when the Kharijite and Shiite doctrine will be compared with each other. Other moderate groups of the Kharijites partly appearing later as the two groups mentioned above are the Ibadiyya, the Sufriyya and the Bayhasiyya. The last mentioned are extincted, but the Ibadiyya is still represented at some regions of Africa. Important scholars of these groups are for example Jabir b. Ziyad (95/713), whose Kharijism is controversial, Ikrima (107/725), Mujahid (103/721) and Amr b. Dinar (126/743). Generally it can be said that the Kharijite movement after the year 71/690 in Basra participated in the discussions of the general religious movement and had close links to the government. This link had to do with the fact, that the moderate groups had no problems by living under an infidel administration, probably because of practical reasons. In order to this, they developed a terminology which should preserve their Kahirijite personality and doctrine: Living under unbelievers was seen as dar-attaqiyya and later dar attawhid. So the former unbelievers turned out to be at least monotheist, this was the only solution to live together with them without being contradictory to the own doctrine.
Nevertheless the most important achievement the Kharijites brought to Islamic thought is the insist on the Qur’anic orientation of an Islamic government. Watt also claims that ``it seems likely that without the actions of the Kharijites they (the moderate religious minded Muslims)might well have allowed the caliphate to become a secular Arab state.´´  Another significant attribute of the Kharijite movement is the communalistic way of thinking, reflected by terms like `group`or community` and the idea that salvation or damnation is linked with the membership of the group. As a conclusion a group which defines itself by this terms can be named as a charismatic group. Especially at this point the Kharijite movement differs from the Shiite one, which finds the religious charisma in one person.

2. Part: Proto-Shi`ite Phenomena under the Umayyad’s

Another movement occurring almost simultaneously to the Kharijite one, is Shi`ism or tashayyu`.  At the first two centuries of Islamic chronology the term is merely used as being sympathized with Ali and the Ahl-al Bayt, which is also implicated by Ibrahim en-Nahai`s Shi’ism. The special charisma imputed to the descendants of al-Hashim, or just one of them, is to be differentiated. This idea of a charismatic imam can be designed in a wide spectrum: from an imam with special leadership qualities to an imam with godlike attributes. The first Shi`ism entitled as proto-Shi’ism by Watt, was represented by former Bedouins and was a generally non-rebellious Arab movement, until some rebellious undertakes of al-Muhtar, who arrives to gain the mawali for himself. It is to be emphasized that after the rebellion of al Muhtar in 65/685 no Shi’ite rebellion can be seen until the year 81, the death of Ibn`ul Hanafiyya. After his death, ideas of Mehdiism began to spread out around the Islamic world and gradually were attributed to the family of Husayn. The Umayyad dynasty`s weakness after approximately the year 119 caused a whole series of rebellions namely by Zeyd b. Ali in 122/740, Abdullah b. Muaviya in 127/744, Nefsu`z-Zakiyya in 145/762 and Abu Mansur in 124/742. In contrast to the pretention of later Shi’ite historians, that some descendants of Ali like Zeynelabidin claimed the Caliphate, these informations show that the descendants of Ali were not involved in political issues until this years, but in times of political suspense after the year 119 people seek some kind of religious charisma in the person of an imam. The universally known Shi’ism is correctly defined by As-Shahrastani:
Whereas after the third century most of the historians like Baghdadi (429) and Hayyat (300) use the term Rafida to differentiate between the `normal` Shia and the heretic Shia.

3. Part: The General Religious Movement

First of all Watt mentions the intellectual aspects of the general religious movement, by recording that all scholars were deeply religious orientated, to be more accurate orientated by the Quran and the Ahadeeth. Under the Umayyad dynasty the scholarch activity was orientated in mainly three aspects, the law, the Quran and the Traditions. Still, these were far away of being academic.
Firstly to be mentioned is the Islamic law, which developed very fast after the death of the prophet and achieved a relative simple structure of laws and courts to the complex needs of an empire under the Caliphates. After the prophets death there was a serious effort to maintain the certainity of the law, and some group of scholars evolved in capital cities like Madina, Kufa and Basra. These groups were discussing the juristic responses of new occurrences and thus acquired a certain stability in doctrine and in membership, sufficient to justify the name of `ancient school of law`, and pointed the beginning of al `fikh`. The consensus of each group was assumed to be their `belief`. Schacht also presumes that in each group there was a little group of scholars who supported their belief with traditions. Another significant attribute of the scholaric effort was to ascribe its current doctrines to the leader of the school in the previous generation. Generally must be said that after the year 132/750 the general religious movement were disaffected towards the Umayyad’s and sympathetic towards the Abbasids.
Secondly the Qur’anic studies are to b examined. During the Khalifes and the Umayyad Dynasty any issue be it political or social was discussed occurring Qur’anic terms. The most famous person in the Qur’anic discipline was Ibn Abbas (68/687). In some lists mentioning the important personalities of Qur’anic disciplines there can be found personalities known as fukaha like Ibrahim en- Nehai and some of the fukaha of madina.
Thirdly to be mentioned is the study of Tradition. Although religious issues were discussed with traditions and the Quran, there was no certain systematic transmission of Traditions such as occurred later. Still, there are some documents which tell the life of the prophet such as maghazi and sira. The first one to lean a statement of the prophet to an isnad is az-Zuhri (125/742).
Zuhri also was a supporter of Ibn Zubayr (61/680), such as Ibni Abi Mulayka (117/735), Urva bin Zubayr (94/712) and Hisam bin Urva (146/763). Zuhri was seen as anti-Umayyad but his traditions were mostly pro-Muawiya tendenced.
At the same time there are some pro-Umayyad scholars denying the Quadariyya ,which occured as a protest movement towards the Umayyads like Avzai (156/773). There are active opponents of the Umayyads beside the Kharijite (and Shi`ite), which play an important role in the development of religious beliefs. One of them is the rebellion of Ibn-Al Ash`as, whose supporters were among others Ma´bad al-Juhani and ash- Sha`bi. These kind of rebellions are important to understand in what kind of situations a scholar was exposed that time.
The central or moderate party question is a difficult one, but there are some representatives like Abdullah ibn Umar (74/693), a scholar whose main interest was to stay out of policy. Other two ones are Ibrahim en-Nehai, mentioned as a Shi`ite because of his pro-Aliide position, and Ash-Sha`bi. Ash-Shabi fits in the profile of a moderate scholar, but has also participated in the rebellion of Ibn Al-Ash`as. Sha`bi ist he first scholar of the tradition of Kufa, and was against the Umayyad regime.
Hasan al-Basri is to be mentioned as one of the most important scholars of his time. As a scholar who was at the same time in good relationship with anti-Umayyad scholars, he never got involved in a rebellion and did advise them against the rebellions. At the other side he assumed that rebellion had to be done against a regime which was acting against Qur’anic rules. Watt presumes at this point, that the criticism of Al Hasan was merely in less serious matters.
If we want to screen the picture of the general movement, we will see that the efforts were directed to the idea that the Islamic state should be based on `the Book of God and the Sunna (standard practice) of the prophet`. At points like Qur’anic and traditional criterions the moderate party was coherent with other groups, but they differed in the point that they didn`t claim any perfectionism. The moderate party`s most noticeable feature was the attitude to community and state.
As mentioned before, Hasan al-Basri (110/728) is of an outstanding importance for the development of Islamic thought and must be discussed entirely. He was of Persian origin. Furthermore he never got involved to political struggles, although he had advised for a while Hajjaj and had been quadi under the Khalif Umar abd-al aziz. Hasan al-Basri is mostly known for his spiritual and ascetic attitude. In question of belief he assumes that the grave sinner is not a kafir, but rather a munafiq and so will always be in danger of hell. Despite everything he is still a member of the Muslim society. Because of these opinions Hasan al Basri`s scholarch personality can be seen as some kind of forerunner of the Sunnite scholars. 

4. Part: God`s determination of Events

During the rule of the Umayyad dynasty there were a lot of discussion about this issue. The first group Watt studies, is the Qadariyya. The Qadariyya raised out of an anti-Umayyad attitude and was reasonable as it stayed as so. But after the Abbasid undertake of regime, it had to change. The first opposition of the Qadariyya raised towards the Umayyads, which were mainly using their theology to legitimate their rule, was that humans’ actions must not be predestinated. Actually the roots of determination can be found in beduine pre-Islamic belief, which was shaped by the belief of dahr, ajal and what Watt calls `tribal humanism` . The Quran put God instead of dahr and made all the other subordinated points like rizq, ajal, nasara and hazara depending on him. Conclusively the Quran has a mainly deterministic attitude.

As among others Evzai stated, `the first ones to talk about the Qadar were Mab`ad al Juhany and Gaylan`` .  These two persons were at the same time rebels. There were found also sympathisants among the Kharijites of Basra. This was probably interrelated with the Qadarite claim of God`s actions to be just (al-adala), since the Kharijite mentality assumed this. Another significant Qadarite argument based on the idea that the Umayyads could not be legitimated through God`s predestination, but as the Abbasid dynasty seized the power this argument turned to be out of date. The first argument thus, was carried forward by the Mutazilites. Hasan al-Basri is listed in heretical literature as a Qadarite and his work ar-Risala cares some evident that his arguments are congruent with the Qadarite ones. A major reason for his attitude is related to the fear that if we assume that humans actions are predestinated, one can easily apologize himself for his sins. On the other side his spiritual life and actions were non Qadarite at all (he did not participate in any rebellion against the regime, and had murjiite ideas like the necessary of the shahadah in the last breath of any Muslim). This duality in al Hasan means that he can justifiably be regarded as a forerunner of two opposed groups of later scholars. The first one is the Mutazila, the second one is the ahl al Hadith. After the change of regime most of Qadarites possibly became Mutazilites. Important Qadarites are Ata bin Yesar (103/721), Halid b. Midan (103/721), Vehb b. Munabbih (110/728), Mek`hul (113/731), Katade (117/735), Ibn Ishak (150/767) etc. All these mentioned can also be seen as members of the general religious movement. Furthermore it can be observed that the Qadarite movement was limited with Basra after the year 132/750. The disappearance of the real Qadarite movement in the third/ninth century is linked with the Mutaziliyya which came replaced it in some ways, and with the Traditions, which occurred in a systematic way, claiming a predestination view.


5. Part: Faith and Community

The faith of the general religious movement or the central party is often pictured as Murjjiism. Irjaa can mean on the one side `postponing`and on the other side `giving hope`. The first meaning expresses the idea that the grave sinners position is postponed to the last judgement and will be given by God. The second meaning is merely a rare position under the murjiites, namely that the grave sinner`s actions don`t have any effect on his position in the last judgment. Mostly because of this second argument the murjiites were attacked by other groups. For example the Mutazilite el-Hayyat declares that the Murjiites see the grave sinner as a mu`min, where as the Mutazilite claims them to be  neither a kafir nor a mumin, they are in manzila baynal manzilatayn. Another example are the Shi`ites, which are by classifying the Murjiites naturally giving more importance to their placement of Ali after ‘Uthman, as the Murjiites valued the four Khalifes according their chronological appearances. It is also to be mentioned that murjiism had a high average in Kufa, which was traditional the city of sypmathisants of Ali. As a consequence the Murjiites never had any rebellious problem with the regime, even when the Abbasid dynasty took place the Umayyad`s, because their main aim was to preserve the unity of the Umma. For this reasons the Murjiites were some kind of forerunners of the Sunnites.
Furthermore Watt examines the theological discussions around faith and comes to the conclusion that the dominant influence in this case was that of Abu Hanifa and the Hanafite tradition, and that the other persons mentioned as Murjiites were completely insignificant.  So it will be useful to summarize their view: 1) imân is indivisible and does not increase or decrease. 2) the decision about ‘Uthman and Ali is given back to God 3) no one is excluded from imân and named as kafir because of his sin, so long as he does not consider it lawful 4) imân is confession with the tongue and counting true with the heart 5) imân and Islam are linguistically distinct but inseparable and complementary 6) istishna, making exception , such as `i am a believer if God will`is not accepted
The doctrine of imân of the Hanafites still remained accepted, where as the Esharites developed their doctrine in the muahhar generations.  Another aspect of the doctrine is, that it helped to relax the moral anxiety, which was caused by the fear that ones actions never can be sufficient enough. The intercession of the messenger was another factor, which relaxed the moral anxiety in the Islamic society.
Murjiism was later mentioned as a heretic group. The reason for this was mainly that the Ash’arites were in juristic issues Hanbalites and were criticizing Abu Hanifa. But in later centuries the division between the Ash’arite and Hanafite doctrine got smaller and historians like Baghdadi and Shahrastani did not feel any purpose of criticizing Abu Hanifa.

Century of Struggle

6. Part: The Establishment of The Abbasid Dynasty

The aim of the Abbasids to undertake the reign began to establish itself possibly around 100/718.  The line of the first Khalif of the Abbasids Abu`l Abbas as-Saffah traces back to Ibrahim bin Muhammad ,Muhammad bin Ali (125/743), Ali bin Abdullah (118/736), Abdullah Ibn al-Abbas and  his father el-Abbas, who was at the same time the uncle of the prophet. After the undertake, it took a long time until the rebellions were quelled. Namely there were rebellions of the Kharijites, whose efforts prevented that the Abbasids got further North Africa. Some other rebellions are the ones of Nafs´zu-Zakiyya and Ebu Muslim. The Abbasid dynasty confirmed is legitimation by the pretension that the imamate was given by Abu Hashim, the son of Muhammad ibn al Hanafiyya to Muhammad ibn Ali, who was the father of the first Abbasid Khalif es-Saffah and the second Mansur. In time of al-Mahdi the Hashimite charisma was extend so that it concluded also and especially the Aliid family. Because of these reasons the Abbasids could have been seen by some Shi`ites as one of them, but this question will be discussed later.
 Firstly the political background should be examined. The problem of Ali and ‘Uthman still is indicatory, so there can be distinguished four different groups: 1) The pure pro-Umayyads which are also called Uthmanites 2) The moderate pro-Umayyads, who were besides criticizing mainly obeying the Umayyad government. These are called Murjiites. 3) Moderate criticers of the regime like Ibrahim en-Nahai, who mainly claimed that Ali was legitimated Khalif and ‘Uthman is less worth than him, but still does not get involved in any rebellion. 4) The biggest critique came from different groups, composed under the name Kaysaniyya, who were expecting the imam to occur as Mahdi.
A group, which claimed that the prophet had appointed his follower, Ali. ‘Uthman and all the other who would fight against him were infidels. This is also the meaning of their name Rafida the `leavers`, the ones who left Abu Bakr, and Umar. However it is expected that this group was rebellious, they were in good relationship with the regime. This shows that the idea of imamate was merely the emphasize on the idea that it should be designated from above and not from the commonality. Similar to this they denied ictihad because they expected some kind of inspiration to come from above. Furthermore they accused the sahabees of the Prophet as being infidels, which led to a general disturbance between scholars like for example Ahmad bin Hanbal, because this meant that the foundation of religion weakened.
Another significant phenomena of this time is the influence of Iranian culture, mainly caused by the new Muslims with iranian-aramean background. As newcomers in a less high status, namely in the status of a mawali, they had presumably a high motivation to establish themselves in issues of government. Important literature was translated to Arabic, such as Kalila wa dimna. Related to this a new religious phenomenon raised, which was called zandaka, and most of the scholars declared war on it. The political scene was dominated by the suspense between the scholar class and the beaurocratic class. As advisers for a more Qur’anic and Islamic government the scholar class hold control of the power and so the critique towards the Quran or at least the Arabic way of thinking of the beaurocracy had in reality the scholar class in target. Thinking one step further, the beaurocracy needed a government with a strong legitimation from above, which was mainly represented by imamate ideas. On the other side, the scholarclass established the political charisma in their own integrity. Watt names this as  `constitutionalist`. Me`mun tried to achieve a compromise between these two groups by declaring Ali er-Riza to his successor and the mihna. After the year 285/850 still there was a Mutazila which was totally established in Baghdad, and no Zaydiyya left in Baghdad anymore and so Me´mun ceased of his policy. Another strategy of him was the Mihna: the belief that the Quran was created strengthened the Khalif and his beaurocrates and the belief that it was not strengthened the scholar class.

7. Part: The Attraction of Reasoning

The scholars of the Islamic world are mainly divided in two: the ahl`ar-ray and the ahl`al-hadeeth. The reconciliation between these two polars, was made by ash-Shafii`, who tried to give a more precise meaning to the conception of the Sunna, by making it obligatory to prove any assertion about the Sunna of the Prophet by a properly attested tradition (isnad). Secondly he elaborated a theory of methodology in law, according to which only certain types of reasoning were admissible (usul al-fiqh), these were four in number: the Book, the Sunna, Consensus (icma`) and Analogy (qiyas). In effect the only way of reasoning permitted was qiyas. The discussion about usul al fiqh affected the whole future course of Islamic thought, because Jurisprudence was the central intellectual discipline in the Islamic world. In this way systematic reasoning in law prepared the way for reasoning in theology and other spheres.  Around the year 184/ 800 kalam was in questions of reasoning not yet that developed as al fiqh.
The Hellenistic influence in the Islamic world can be seen in Iraq, namely Basra and Kufa and later Baghdad, and played a big role by the birth of kalam. Hellenistic ideas got into Islamic thought through translations, which were benefitted by Al ma´mun and his beaurocrates.  As time passed, Kalam established itself as a discipline which was occasionally in demand. Yet there were regretters of this discipline such as Abu Yusuf, and the Hanbelites in general.
The first theologians in the Islamic world can be observed in the time of Harun ar-Rasheed (170-193). The first Theologians were Hisham bin al Hakem and Dirar bin Amr. Hisam bin al Hakem was a Rafidiyy and discussed themes like t`he juzz allazi la yetecezza´and denied its existence. Furthermore he is he first one to discuss the attributes of God. He is known through his student an-Nazzam, who was also deeply influenced by Dirar b. Amr. Although these two scholars differed in political issues from each other they had some parallel opinions. Dirar was in consensus with the later formulated al manzila bayna`l manzilatayn, but raised the opinion that all human actions were controlled by God and formulated this with the theory of kasb, so he is he first person to use this term. The Mutazila in general regretted the idea of kasb where God would create an action which could be attributed with ihtiyar. Conclusively kasb is he way to express that one is responsible of his actions, and if he does something wrong he will be called to account for it in a just way. Dirar agreed with the Mutazila in the idea of al manzila bayna`l manzilatayn, but at the same time he agreed with the moderate group at the point that all human actions are determined (takdir) by God. Being on different sides in political issues, Dirar and Hisam had despite all similar theologies. Watt also presumes that Dirar was some kind of forefather of the Mutazila much earlier than Ebu Huzayl.
Another important scholar of the Mutaziliyya is Bishr el-Marisi (218/833), who played an essential role by the development of the idea that the Quran is created. So it is comprehensible that he represented the `constitutionalist`s side. He also regretted the belief that there will be punishment in the grave and because of this was criticized by most of the Hanafites. It is clear that when Ebu`l Huzeyl adopted the Mutazilite discussion rounds from Dirar usul-i hamse was totally developed. It is also to be mentioned that most of the theologians the Mutaziliyya regretted, were in relationship with Abu Hanifa, so the Hanafites played a big role in the development of Mutaziliya. Generally the Mutaziliyya was a movement attracting a wide range of scholars.

A marginal group emerged at this time represented by scholars like Ibn Sina (428/1037) and Ibn Rüsd (594/1198) called as felasifa. However this movement had some important influence on the Islamic thought, as it for example played an important role in the emerge of Kalam and later in form of the ideas of al-Ghazali and his students. Between these two dates, Greek philosophy was represented by scholars who were totally separated from the main Islamic scholarch tradition. The main stream of represents of Islamic thought had a suspicious attitude towards the felasife, because they were trusting in their reasonability more than in the religious sources (asar). Another reason for this suspicious attitude was the difference of studying the philosophy, although in later centuries (5.century/7. Century) a similar institution occurred and was called `madrasa.  Kindi (256) is he first one to introduce the Greek philosophy to the Islamic world, and had good relationship to the Khalif al-Ma´mun. His opinions were similar to the Mutaziliyya. After al Kindi the `foreign sciences` got entrance as an independent discipline to the Islamic world.

8. Part: The great Mutaziliyya

The appearance of the Mutazila is mostly attributed to Vasil b. Ata, although it is suspicious whether it is not Amr b. Ubayd. Both of them agreed in the point that the grave sinner is a muvahhid such as the Kharijites. Furthermore the mutaziliyya in the time of Vasil and Amr, differed from the Mutazila in the time of al Ma`mun.
The presume that the Mutaziliyya did not emerge until the Caliphate of Harun er Rashid proves itself true. Under the Khalifate of Harun ar-Rashid the school of Basra (Ebu`l Huzeyl) and later Baghdad (Bishr b. el-Mu`tamir) emerged. The Basrian school`s roots are found in Hasan al-Basri`s theories. Some important represents of the Basrian school are en-Nazzam (202/818), Jahiz (256/869), esh-Shahham (266/880). On the other side members of the Baghdadian school are: Sumama (approximately 213/828), Ibn Ebi Duad (239/854), Jafar bin Harb (235/850), Jafar bin Mubashir (233/848), el-Iskafi (240/854). The authors of heretic history tendenced to differ between the two mutazilian schools of Basra and Baghdad, but this occurs to be just the aim to reach the number seventy two, as it was mentioned in the prophetic tradition. Actually there was no great difference between the doctrines in general but rather in the doctrines of special scholars.
The name Mutazila was coherent to those who accepted the usul`al hamsa : 1) Tavhid 2) Adl (actually representing the qadar and irada) 3) el Va´d ve`l vaid  4)   el Esma ve`l Ahkam or al manzila bayna`l manzilatayn 5) Al Amru bi`l ma´ruf va`n- nahyu ani`l munkar . In general the Mu`tazila has a tendency to emphasize the responsibility of humans too much and so approaches to the Qadariyya and they seem to explain Islamic thought with foreign terms. Concerning  the irada and qudra of human actions the Mutaziliyyan majority accepts the idea of Nazzam which implies that one possesses the quwwa to create his action in the first moment (a`n) and in the second moment. With quwwa is meant the strength of decision. A negative attribute of the Mutazilite doctrine is that they developed their arguments according to the regrets of their opposites and because of this their arguments sometimes assembled weak. Their idea of responsibility was based on somehow a materialistic view, where the responsibility should not be seen as a `moral `but rather as `physical`. 


The Triumph of Sunnism 850-945

One of the most important events is the political unclearly situation in this dynasty. The outstanding feature of this period is the attainment by Sunnism of a position of dominance in Islamic society and the consolidation of this position. And this is the reason why the reorganization of Shi`ism begun and the first time Imamite Shi`ism took his subsequently familiar form. 

9. Part: The Polarity of Sunnism and Shi`ism

This chapter shows us on the one hand the social forces supporting Sunnism came to be accepted as dominant within the caliphate, this means how Sunnism came to be the ``established`` religion in a unique way, which it had not been before, and on the other hand this chapter shows us also re reshaping of Imamism round 900 increased the self-awareness of moderate Shi`ites.

1. The political background
Undeniably the most important event to tell is the change of government policy. This included the abandonment of the Mu`tazilite attempt at compromise and the ending of Mihna. Mutalizilities were replaced from there authorities.  Even it was forbidden to visit the tomb of Husayn at Kerbela.
Also the transference of the seat of government to the city of Samarra by al Mu`tasim and his introduction of Turkish officers into his personal guard, was very significant and important also, because the power of the Turks increased. Therefore the restoration of Baghdad to the position of capital in 883 was a strategic act to enfeeble the power of the Turks. Even the caliphates were determined by Turkish generals. By, 936, rivalries at the center had so weakened the caliph that he handed over most of his functions to an outside military leader, Ibn Raiq, with the title amir al umara. Few years later, in 945 Buwayhid family, entered Baghdad. After that the Buwayhid were then for fully a hundred years the de facto rulers of Iraq and various eastern provinces. It is even convenient to apply the term `war lord` to all the people whom ruled at the center and in the provinces. This was in strong contrast to the position of the Fatimid’s, who ruled rightful and with justice in the Islamic world.
In so far as men felt that the establishment of Sunnism gave them security, they wanted to see further consolidation of the various aspects of Sunnism.

2. Aspects of Sunnite consolidation

a) The formation of a canon of Tradition
The meaning of the word Sunna has its own, essential meaning. “Standard practice” or “normal and normative custom”. It can also used in the pre Islamic time. In the ancient schools of law, religious minded men in each city criticized local legal practice in the light of the Qur’anic rules. In course of tıme they reached a measure of agreement. Schacht calls this constitution as “the living tradition of the school”. Thıs represented the consensus- icma- of the scholars in that city.
So, Sunna means the standard practice of Muhammad as evidenced by Traditions. To explain and understand the Tradition-Sunna it must be supported by evidence in the shape of a Tradition with an isnad

b) The establishment of the legal rites or schools
The “ancient schools” of law were geographically determined. In each city the majority was in agreement, but there was also a dissident minority. After a while these schools transformed to personal schools. The Majority of Kufa came to regard themselves as followers of Abu Hanifa. In Medina the majority became the followers of Malik b. Anas. (Also there were groups/followers of Ahmat ibn Hanbal and Shafii). Rivalry between the schools continued, but the common discipline of usul al fıkıh served to increase the degree of mutual recognition until by about the year 1300 this was virtually complete. By that date there remained only four schools which still continue: the Hanafite, Hanbalite, Malikite and Shafite

c) The Qur`anic sciences
In the parallel discipline of quira’a, the study of the text, however, the period under review saw a development comparable to the canonization of Tradition, namely, the widespread adoption as authoritative of “the seven readings”. When the Quran was first written down, it was in a SCİPTİO DEFEVTİVA” which was more a mnemonic device than a system of writing. İbn Mujahid propounded later the view that there were seven sets of readings which were equally valid, basing himself on a Tradition which started that Muhammad had been taught to recite the Quran according to seven ahruf, and interpreting ahruf, which is properly “letters”, as “sets of readings”.

d) The contribution of the Sufis
The existence of Sufism as a tolerated aspect of Islamic life gave strong support to Sunnism in the process of establishing itself. The existence of Sufism and its toleration implied the calidity, at least in certain cases, of the religious experience of individuals, and Sunnism was largely based on ordinary men.

3. The emergence of Sunnite self-awareness

a. General consideration
For the traditional Muslim scholar there is no problem; Islam has always been Sunnite, Sunnite Islam has always existed. But this point of view is critical. There are other forms and groups, also interpretations of Islam. For instance there some elements in the Quran which indicates that the Quran was created and some elements show that it is not created.
There is a great conflict between two groups about the succession of the prophet. Sunnites accept the chronological order of the four caliphs (which indicates that Ali is the fourth caliph) but on the sider the Shiites thought that Ali was the rightful successor to Mohammed and that the Traditions in the six books were doubtful validity, if not clearly false. All Shiites except the Zaydites thought that the first three caliphs were usurpers.

b. The evidence of the names
A common name for the Sunnites in later times was Ahl as- Sunna wa-l- Jama’a. It is found in Sharh al-qıqh al-akbar probably by Abdul Layth as-Samarkandi and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The meaning of jamaa is community.

4. The reshaping of Shi’ism
After the death of Hasan al Askari, there were fourteen or twenty separated groups among his followers. Through the Fatimid dynasty the İsmailities had obtained a state with its center in Tunisia.

a) The İsma’ilities
The İsmailties derive their name from the fact that they consider that the imam adter Ja’far as-Sadiq was his son İsmail and not Musa al-Kazim, as the Imamates say. As an underground movement İsmailism prospered through developing a hierarchic organization.
Abu Said al Ahsan al Jannabi established a kind of republic in eastern Arabia with his center in Bahrein (894). From Bahrein missioners carried the İsmailite mission and propaganda to various parts of the Abbasid caliphate.

b) Zaydism on the periphery
While the Zaydies thought of their doctrines as containing the truth for all Muslims, they made no missionary efforts comparable to those of the Fatimid’s. Once they had established themselves in their little states, they were content to remain almost complete isolation from the rest of the Islamic world.

c) The formation of İmamism
Some points in which the İmamites differed from other Shiites groups:

i. God has on earth a hujja “proof” from the sons of Hasan ibn Ali (the Eleventh İmam), and he is a wasi “legatee” to his father

ii. The imamate is may not fall tot two brothers after al Ahsan and al Husayn

iii. The imamate is in the progency of al-Hasan ibn Ali

iv. If there were only two men on earth, one would be hujja, and if one died, the one left would be hujja; this applies so long as God’s command and prohibition stand for his creatures

v. The Imamate may not be in the progeny of a man who died in the lifetime of his father, whose imamate was not established and who had no hujja; this excludes the İsmailite (Mubaraki) view that the imam after Ja’far as Sadıqh..

vi. … was Muhammad ibn İsmail ibn Jafar

vii. The earth may not be without a hujja; we acknowledge the imamate and the death of (al Ahsan İbn Ali) and maintain that he has a descendant from his loins who is the imam after him and who will appear and publicy assert his imamate; it is for God to determine the times of appearing and remaining hidden, and ,t is wrong for men to investigate such matters

viii. It is not for any believer to choose an imam by rational consideration (ra’y) or choice (ikhtiyar); God appoints him for us

ix. There is justification for concealing the identity of the imam, and he will not be known until he appears


10. The Maturing of Sunnite Theology

1. Ninth-century Sunnite theologians
This chapter deals with those who were theologians in the sense of propounding views on question of doctrine, and is not confined to rationalistic theologians or Mutakallimun. İt is indeed difficult to define Kalam exactly. The issue about the creation of the Quran. İbn Kullab says, that the speech of God is a “single meaning” (mana wahid) subsisting in him, and that the sounds and letters are a copy or trace of it and an expression (ibara) of it. Al Baquillani defined speech as “a meaning (mana) subsisting in the soul (nafs), while for Juwayni “the affirmation of the speech subsisting in the soul” was a point on which he opposed the Mutalizites, they also used such terms as ibara and dalala.

b) The Hanafites
The development of the Hanafite school has not been fully studied, and the biographical notices, though numerous, are tantalizingly inadequate.
The elaboration of Hanafite jurisprudence owed much to certain disciples of the masters, chiefly Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn Hasan ash-Shaybani, and to a lesser extent al-Lu’lu’i.
a. İbn-Kullab and al-Qalanisi
The most influential of the Mutakallimun of the period of the Mihna was İbn Kullab. He argued against Abbad ibn Sulayman. It may be significant that al-Ashari in the Maqalat several times mentions Sulayman ibn Jarir the Zaydite in close proximity to Ibn Kullab. İbn Kullab’s chief contribution to Kalam, was his elaboration of the doctrine of the attributes (sıfat) of God. He asserted that for each name such as “powerful”, “knowing”, “eternal”, there was an attribute of “power”, “knowledge” or “eternity”.

b. İbn-Karram
İbn Karram played an important part in the development of theology in the lands to the east of Iraq. Massignon says that Karramism attracted Hanafites who were opposed to Mu’tazilite teaching, and the Mutazilites and Asharites regarded it as a form of tajsim and tashbih (corporealism, anthropomorphism).
c. Ahmad ibn Hanbal and other opponents of Kalam
The best-known figure among the Ahl al-Hadith is Ahmad ibn- Hanbal. He rejected the rational methods of the Mutakallimun and insisted on deriving religious doctrines and legal rules solely from the Quran and the Traditions
Here some ideas of his position:

i. Imân is word and act and intention and holding to the Sunna. Imân creases and decreases

ii. The Qadar (determination), the good of it and the evil of it, the little of it and the much of it… is from God

iii. We do not bear witness of any of the people of the Quibla that he is in Hell for an evil he has done, unless there is a Tradition about that

iv. The caliphate is in Quraish so long there are two men alive

v. Hold back from the people of the Quibla , and do not call any of them an unbeliever on account of a sin… unless there is a Tradition about it.

vi. The one-eyed Dajjal will undoubtedly appear… The punishment of the tomb is a reality…

vii. The intercession (shafaa) on the day of resurrection is a reality

viii. Paradise and Hell and what they contain are already created

ix. He created seven heavens… and seven earths... and the throne (arsh)... and the sedile (kursi)

x. The Quran is the speech of God by which he speaks. It is not created.

xi. Vision is from God and is a reality

xii. The good qualities (mahasin) of the Companions of the Messenger of God, all of them together, are to be mentioned, and their bad qualities are not to be mentioned

xiii. The best (khayr) of the community after the Prophet is Abu Bakr, then Umar, then ‘Uthman, then Ali…

xiv. He recognizes that the Arabs have rights and excellence and predences…

xv. He who forbids earning and trading

xvi. Religion is only the book of God, the athar (sayings or acts of pious men), the sunam (standard practices), and sound narratives from reliable men about recognized sound calid Traditions (akhbar)

xvii. He who supposes that taqlid (following an authority) is not approved and that his religion is not thus following anyone

Main points about the comprehension of Ashab al-Hadith:
A. What God wills comes to be, and what he does not will does not come to be
B. He is creator of good and evil
C. The Quran is the speech of God not created
D. God will be seen on the day of resurrection
E. The two shaykhs (Abu Bakr and Umar) have precedence
F. They believe in the punishment of the tomb
G. The Quran in every circumstance, recited, written, heard, remembered, is uncreated


2. The Silver Age of Mu’tazilism
The Golden age was the period of the great Mu’tazilites and the immediately following years when the government of the caliphate officially adopted at least some aspects of Mu’tazilite doctrine. I the silver age thinkers were seeking to introduce greater refinement into the answers to old questions, instead of exploring fresh fields.


a) Al Jubba’i

The main aspect of his thought is a tendency towards the recovery of the primitive realization of God’s omnipotence and inscrutability. God is not bound by human conceptions of justice and injustice, but only by what is involved in his own wisdom, namely, that his operations shall not be self-stultifying. God is not bound to do what is best (aslah) for men in all respects but only in respect of religion; in this he opposed those Mu’tazilites of Baghdad who held that God always does what is best for men. (The example with the tree brothers in this context important and significant)

b) Abu Hashim

He insists on man’s ability to earn his salvation and on God’s obligation to act according to 8human) reason. His theory about God’s attributes is avoiding the suggestion of the word şifa and of nouns such as “knowledge” (ilm) that these have a quasi-substantive and partly independent existence within the being or essence of God. This conception of ahwal was in some respects accepted by certain later Ash’arite theologians, notably al-Baquillani and Juwayni

c) Al- Kabi:
He held that God is bound to do what is best for men, at least in what he commands them.

d) The transformation of the Mu’tazila
For a time some Mu’tazilites were in positions of political power. This gave a fillip to Mu’tazilit theology, but as it developed it moved further away from the ordinary Muslim, leaving him to be represented by members of the general religious movement, chiefly those who may now be called Ahl al- Hadith. After 850 the Mu’tazilites became more and more a small coterie of academic theologians cut off from the masses of the people and exercising little influence on the further course of Islamic thought.

3. The achievement of al Ash’ari

The theology of al Ash’ari marked a turning point. Up to this time there seemed to have been nothing but the wrangling of sects, whereas with him there came into being a rationalistic form of Sunnite theology which has persisted ever since. But after deeply researches in the nineteenth century about Ashari and generally the development of Islamic thought by European scholars, the puzzlement of the scholars increased.
a. His life, conversion and chief works
He was born in Basra at 873. He is claimed by both the Hanifites and Shafites. The significant part of his education was the study of Mutazilite theology under al-Jubbai. Later he converted from Mu’tazilism to the doctrines of the Ahl al- Hadith wa-s Sunna. There are a lot of stories about his conversion. One story: His dream in which the Prophet appeared to him (3 times). First the Prophet commanded him to defend the doctrines related from himself and then in the second asked how he had been fulfilling this task.
 The essential story is about three boys, of whom one became pious or believing, one became wicked or unbelieving, while one died as a boy. Now according to the view of some mu’taziilites Paradise is reserved for those who earn or merit it by their good conduct; and so only the first of the three will be in Paradise. The exclusion of the third then appears to be unfair, since God caused him to die before he had an opportunity of becoming pious and believing. … This story is told in form of a dialogue between al-Jubbai and al-Ashari. 

b. His rational methods

İf God can be seen, then he may be touched, tasted and smelled; whatever is seen is limited. The doctrines defended by al-Ashari with his rational methods are roughly those of Ahmad ibn-Hanbal. The chief difference is that al-Ashari discussed the question of God’s attributes which had been raised by the Mu’tazilites and adopted a definite position on it.
c. His influence

4. The relation of al-Maturidi to al- Ashari

a) The obscurity of al- Maturidi
It is fact that with al-Maturidi theology attained a high level and that it continued to be cultivated among the Nahefites in the eastern provinces, though they may hot have called themselves followers of al-Maturidi.

b) The chief differences


5. The end of the formative period
By about 950 the formative period of Islamic thought had come to an end. This date is a convenient round number close to the death of al- Ashari and other important thinkers and also to the attainment of power in Baghdad by the Buwayhid dynasty.
As mankind seeks a new and more vital unity and harmony, it is to be hoped that this study of the formative period of Islamic thought may throw some light on the intellectual developments now to be expected on a world scale



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